PAQ-Position Analysis Questionnaire

PAQ-Position Analysis Questionnaire

Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ)

The PAQ is a structured job analysis questionnaire that aids the user in conducting a quantified analysis of a given job. To complete a job analysis using the PAQ, the user reviews background information, observes the job, and conducts thorough interviews with job incumbents to determine job content then rates the extent to which each item on a standard list of PAQ job elements applies to that particular job. There are six types of rating scales used in the PAQ: Extent of Use; Importance to This Job; Amount of Time; Possibility of Occurrence; Applicability; and Item-Specific scales. The PAQ was developed in the 1960s by Ernest McCormick (as well as his colleagues at Purdue University). It was designed around the well-known behaviorist formula S-O-R, where the organism (O) receives a stimulus (S) and makes a response (R). But the PAQ also notes that the environment and social setting play a role in job performance. Unlike JEM (Job Evaluation Method), the PAQ was designed so that the same elements apply to all jobs. Again, the term element has a different meaning across the two techniques.

Before 2004, the PAQ consisted of 194 items or elements. Of these, the first 187 concern either a human attribute (for example, color perception) or an aspect of the job requiring accommodation by the human (for example, the job makes use of written information, the jobholder experiences vibration). The last seven items (188–194) concern compensation (pay) for the job and are not considered here. The items are collected into six major divisions, which are listed in Table 3.4. Information input, for example, concerns what type of information the jobholder gets, and where and how he or she gets it. The major divisions are further divided into subdivisions called sections and subsections. Each section or subsection is composed of related items. Sample subdivisions and items are also listed in Table 3.4. In 2004, the PAQ was supplemented by job analysis questions used in U.S. Social Security disability determinations; new job analysis questions added by the August 23, 2004, amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA; the first major change since 1949); analysis questions long-believed to be required, such as “ability to sit/stand/shuffle”; education requirements; and certain stress-related questions. Exactly 300 items are now used.

The job analyst considers each item relative to the job under consideration and decides whether the item applies to the job. If the item does apply, then the analyst rates the job on the item. Although the PAQ is named for the term position, it is typically used to analyze the job as we have defined it. That is, the PAQ is usually used to analyze a group of related positions that are similar enough to be called a job and given a single title. The analyst then records for each item his or her judgment about the item with regard to a rating scale developed for the PAQ. There are six different rating scales used in the PAQ. Only one rating scale applies to any given item. Each rating scale is illustrated in Table 3.5 along with sample items.

The PAQ manual notes that specially trained analysts, managers, and even incumbents can complete the PAQ. However, in most cases specially trained analysts should be used. We recommend that incumbents should not, if possible, complete the PAQ because it requires a high level of reading comprehension and many rather abstract judgments. Also, many of the PAQ scales will not

Table 3.4         Structure of the Position Analysis Questionnaire

Major Division


Illustrative Job Element

Information Input

Sources of job


Use of written materials


Mediation (Mental)


Discrimination and

perceptual activities

Estimating speed of

moving objects

Decision making and


Reasoning in problem



Work Output

Information processing


Use of stored


Using mathematics

Use of physical devices

Use of keyboard devices


Interpersonal Activities

Integrative manual


Handling objects/


General body activities





Hand-arm manipulation




Work Situation and

Job Context




Personal contact

Personal contact with

public customers

Supervision and


Level of supervision


Physical working


Low temperature


Miscellaneous Aspects

Psychological and

sociological aspects

Civic obligations

Work schedule,

method of pay, and


Irregular hours


Job demands

Specified (controlled)

work pace


Responsibility for safety

of others



SOURCE: Adapted from McCormick, E. J., Jeanneret, P. R., & Mecham, R. C. (1989). Position analysis questionnaire. Logan, UT: PAQ Services, Inc.

Table 3.5

Sample PAQ Scales and Items

Item Type

Sample Item

Extent of

Use (U)


Touch (pressure, pain, temperature, moisture, etc.)

(information input)

N =  Does not apply; 1 = Nominal/very infrequent; 2 = Occasional;

3 = Moderate; 4 = Considerable; 5 = Very substantial


to the

Job (I)


Analyzing information or data (for the purpose of identifying

underlying principles or facts by breaking down information into

component parts, for example, interpreting financial reports,

diagnosing mechanical disorders or medical symptoms, etc.)

(mental processes)


Executives/officials (corporation vice-presidents, government

administrators, plant superintendents, etc.) (relationships with

other persons)

N =  Does not apply; 1 = Very minor; 2 = Low; 3 = Average;

4 = High; 5 = Extreme


Codes (S)


Education (indicate using the code below, the level of knowledge

typically acquired through formal education that is required to

perform this job. Do not consider the type of knowledge typically

acquired in technical or vocational school—see item 48)

(mental processes)

N =  Does not apply; 1 = Less than that required for completion of

high school curriculum; 2 = Level obtained by completion of high

school curriculum; 3 = Level obtained by some college work;

4 = Level obtained by completion of usual college curriculum;

5 = Level obtained by completion of advanced curriculum

(such as graduate school, medical school, law school, etc.)


of Time



Standing (do not include walking) (work output)

N =  Does not apply (or is very incidental); 1 = Under 1/10 of the

time; 2 = Between 1/10 and 1/3 of the time; 3 = Between 1/3 and

2/3 of the time; 4 = Over 2/3 of the time; 5 = Almost continually

Possibility of




Temporary disability (temporary injuries or illnesses which

prevent the worker from performing the job from one full day

up to extended periods of time but which do not result in

permanent disability or impairment) (job context)

N =  No possibility; 1 = Very limited; 2 = Limited; 3 = Moderate;

4 = Fairly high; 5 = High




Business suit or dress (expected to wear presentable clothing such

as tie and jacket, street dress, etc., as customary in offices, stores,

etc.) (other job characteristics)

N =  Does not apply; 1 = Does apply

SOURCE: Adapted from McCormick, E. J., Jeanneret, P. R., & Mecham, R. C. (1989). Position analysis questionnaire. Logan, UT: PAQ Services, Inc.

apply for any given job, and this may be difficult for an incumbent to accept. Incumbents should usually not fill out the PAQ when job analysis is to be used for determining compensation.

In completing the PAQ, the trained analyst ordinarily first observes and then interviews several incumbents who are performing the job. Observing the job is very useful in understanding the job context (noise, vibration, heat, and so on). It is also a useful point of departure for the analyst to note what is not obvious from watching the job. For example, a person operating a machine may know what to do from looking at a dial, from a timed duration, or simply from listening to the sounds a machine is making. It may not be obvious to an observer just what cues the incumbent is using. After observing the job, the analyst interviews one jobholder after another to complete the items in the PAQ. In general, the analyst talks to the jobholder about the PAQ item and its relevance to the job. For most of the items, however, the job analyst actually decides on the appropriate rating. For a few items, such as time spent, the analyst may ask the jobholder for a rating.


The PAQ is scored by computer. The computer printout lists dimension scores and overall scores for the major PAQ divisions. In addition, the computer prints estimates of aptitude test scores, estimates of job evaluation points to be used for setting salaries, and FLSA analyses, the computer’s analysis on whether or not the job is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The PAQ also provides more detailed information about each item (element) in the survey that shows how the current job compares to other jobs contained in the PAQ database. The PAQ database has a large number of jobs cutting across the whole economy. In general, the numbers show how much of the attribute the job requires relative to other jobs.


The PAQ was designed to meet two primary objectives. The first was to develop a standardized approach to identifying the person requirements of jobs, thus eliminating the need for costly test validation studies for each job (at least this was the intent). The second purpose was to help organizations with job evaluation for compensation. Early research on the PAQ, therefore, concerned selection and job evaluation. However, other uses for the instrument were adopted, and the record of research has grown quite large. Today, a major use of the PAQ is for determining disability; it is used by many long-term disability insurance carriers.